My Word for 2016: Simplify

Depositphotos_46522753_m-20152015 was a good year, both personally and professionally. (Remember I have two jobs, so it’s easy to find some kind of success to point to in at least one of them! I’ve also been in some form of sales long enough to be able to twist any little thing into something that could be considered a success… hee hee).

But here’s the thing:  I have some bad habits. Well, really I have plenty, but some of them I enjoy too much to get rid of this year, and some of them are just too fundamental to who I am as a person to really worry about. At least right now. So when I look around myself and inside myself and consider what I can make better in the next year, I come up with one thing that makes a lot of sense to me on lots of levels.

I just want to keep things simple. In my house, in my work, in my mind. I abhor clutter, but with two small boys and one big one–all of whom adore toys–I have a lot of it in my physical environment. There is only so much I can do about that, and learning to look past it sometimes has been the best way to handle it. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept clutter in other parts of my life. In my 42 years, I’ve figured out a couple things that relate to this. For one, when my house/office is cluttered, I’m grumpier. (I say grumpier because I think I’m moderately grumpy kind of all the time…) When my workspace is cluttered, my work is harder to accomplish. And when my mind is cluttered, nothing gets done at all.

I’ve got a few plans brewing to attack the physical and mental clutter in my life and allow a little more light into the dark corners that have been blocked by “stuff”:

  1. AT HOME: I’ve got a donation pickup scheduled for early January. We have old bikes and toys, clothes and things like dishes and towels that we don’t need, but that have been with us through more years and moves than I’m happy admitting. Time to cut back. How much stuff do we really need? I’m guessing a whole lot more than we have.
  2. IN MY BOOKS:  I went through a semi-crisis as a writer from October through early December. And part of it was that I think I had lost my voice, or my purpose as a fiction author. I’d begun pulling in all kinds of crazy subplots, trying to build out or bulk up my stories. And it wasn’t working, but I couldn’t identify what was wrong. I write romance. These are stories about PEOPLE. Not so much about three thousand other things. With some help and guidance from other writers whose input I respect and treasure, I think I’ve managed to find some clear space to begin again. And I literally have done just that. I had a complete book that I was revising, but it was getting nowhere. Except bigger. But these wise folks made me realize the best path was a clear one. And I started again, with a blank page on. The story I want to tell is finally evolving nicely, and I’ve finished about a third of it in just over a week, during the holidays with everything else going on. When the path is clear, I write quickly because I can see where I need to go.
  3. IN MY MIND:  I have a tendency to get wrapped around the axel. I focus on details, losing sight of the bigger things in my life. I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying if things are not “just so” — especially with the boys. And I forget to be thankful and happy that they are smart, handsome and healthy. I think this one grows from wanting to control everything. And after 40 plus years, I might actually be realizing that I just … can’t. And that’s okay. I’m going to try to let go a bit and enjoy what’s in front of me, not what I could potentially FORCE to appear in front of me.
  4. IN MY LIFE: Bigger picture stuff here. Day to day. Life is pretty good, and I need to spend more time appreciating that. I’d like to streamline my work, and find myself making a happy income doing what I love. But I’m willing to accept that, for now, that may not mean working 100% for myself as a writer. I once had a successful freelance career, where I made a legitimate and respectable income writing from home (before I wrote fiction at all). But it was a hustle, and it was stressful. And while that grass looks pretty green at the moment, there is something to be said for going to a job where I just do the work and come home. As “real jobs” go, mine is pretty good. So I’m going to strive to stop pulling against the invisible chains and just be. This doesn’t mean that I won’t still have goals that might one day see me writing full time for myself, but much of that is out of my control at the moment. (Reference #3 above). Relaxing and just living the life I have will give me more time to spend enjoying my boys while they’re little instead of wishing them away, or wishing them quieter so I could worry more about everything holding me back.

I always look at a new year as a chance to do better. I don’t really make resolutions. As a former personal trainer, I’m well aware that those things are temporary. To me, the word “resolution” is a lot like the word “diet” … maybe only in the way we use it, not in its true definition. With that in mind, I admit that I’m going to TRY to honor my word for the year — SIMPLIFY.

What’s your word?


Dinner — almost how it’s supposed to be…

Life is good. I think I can officially say that the move is over. We still have a few boxes around, and things are not hung on the walls, but the pressure to get it all done is off. (Which most likely means that we’ll still have things that need to be hung at this time next year…)

Last night I picked up those little boys from school, and we had a really nice afternoon (minimal yelling from anyone involved.) At about 5, I had a glass of wine and fired up the barbeque. Once the Major came home, he had a glass of wine with me and we had dinner outside at Turbo’s request. Of course, Turbo suggested that we eat outside and then as soon as the table was set, he began throwing a fit — “Why are we eating out here? I want to eat inside….” Agh!

For once, I just enjoyed dinner. I didn’t harangue the boys about eating two bites of this or four bites of that… we had artichokes, so they were both very into pulling the leaves off and eating them. Turbo would scrape all the flesh off with his teeth over and over and then tell me, “I can’t do it! I’m not getting any…” While Lunchbox, following his brother’s example, would dip the leaves in mayo and then just suck the mayo off and show me the untouched leaf, looking quite proud. Regardless, it was so nice. I didn’t worry about food on the floor/chairs/table (part of this may have been the 2 glasses of wine), and I just enjoyed the perfect weather, the company, and the beauty of our new home. More than that, I was finally able to just sit and revel in the wonder of having a family to call my own. It felt wonderful.

The Major took care of baths while I cleaned up, and then we put the little guys to bed and had a nice evening together. Most nights, we kind of go our separate ways after bedtime, doing our own things. But last night we talked, watched an episode of Mad Men (my new addiction) and even went to bed at the same time! (I am usually in bed by about 9:30 and the Major tends to stay up late.) It was really nice.

This morning I got a real treat. I got up at my usual ungodly hour, but instead of getting ready for work, I…wait for it… got to go to the gym! That’s right! This is the week that the Major and I begin our gym rotation. I am going to go on Tuesday and Thursday, and he’s going to handle little boy responsibilities on those mornings! He’s going to go on M, W, F. It was really freeing to walk out of the house, just me, and drive away to do something good for myself. Of course, I spent most of the time wondering how things were going at home, and hoping that the Major wouldn’t forget anything or end up really late or anything. Despite the fact that I usually manage responsibilities for three people every day of my life, I suffer from tremendous guilt on the days when I rely on the Major to do it. I feel like I’m asking him for some huge favor, and I worry constantly that he’s going to be annoyed or put out. I’m not sure why, since I know he doesn’t worry at all about whether I’m annoyed about being the “default parent.”

This is probably a whole other topic — but I talk about it with some friends regularly. Why is it that the man in the marriage can basically do what he wants to do, while the woman takes on most of the responsibility for day to day management of children? One good example of this was one that a friend gave me the other day. She was downstairs herding small children all afternoon, and her husband walked through the room where she was peeling her youngest off of his shrieking brother. Sure that he’d come back any second to help, she found herself searching for him a few minutes later when he didn’t reappear. Where did he go? Upstairs to close the door to the master bedroom and take a 2 hour nap. Could she (or I or any other ‘default parent’) just decide to go nap? Definitely not. If I want a nap on a Sunday afternoon, I basically have to ask permission. I have to make arrangements for the care of the TLAs. If the Major wants a nap, he just says, “hey, I’m going to go take a nap.” And I get to say, “oh, okay.”

Is this always the case? Why? I’m not really complaining — like I said, I had a great night with the Major and am in a happy place at the moment. But I do wonder why moms are the auto-parents and dads have to be asked to step in…

The Five Pronged Approach — Step 5: Keeping it Up

Still with me? Cool. This is the last part of my oh-so-strategic five pronged approach to getting into decent shape before my upcoming 20 year high school reunion (yikes).

The last part is easy — keep doing what you’re doing. Fitness becomes a habit if you make it a part of your life on a regular basis. Since renewing my vow to live a healthier lifestyle, I’ve started running most mornings. And while I have hated running most of my life, there’ve been brief flashes where I’ve understood why some people love it. And I’m in one of those periods now. I don’t run miles and miles. I top out at about 4, and that is a LONG run for me. But the other day I ran further than normal, without stopping at all, and got to a point where I actually didn’t want to stop. I made a big loop up a hill behind my house, which I do pretty often. But this time, I ran all the way up and sprinted all the way down. The trainer in me warned against the sprint. I usually don’t run downhill because it’s so much harder on the joints, but this day I just felt like I was flying. I felt like I used to when I was a little kid and I just ran because I could, because it was fun. I felt like a kid again. And in the midst of trying to sell a house and orchestrate a move, leaving jobs and friends and schools, and explaining all this to my tiny kids, it was really nice to just feel like a little kid, running down a big hill without a care in the world.

I hope that you’re finding that fulfillment, too. Keep it up!

The Five Pronged Approach — Step 4: Making it Mental

Back on the wagon — how are the first three steps going on your end? I’m actually feeling better, even if my clothes aren’t fitting better and I’m not exactly dripping off pounds… but that’s what step 4 is about — keeping your head in the game.

I tend to fall into an “all or nothing” approach in many things. One of these things is eating. If I’m “dieting,” I sometimes feel like I need to ban all things bad from my diet, eat “clean,” and live a completely pristine life from that point on. Of course, that lasts for a day or so before I feel completely deprived, lust after some kind of snacky sugary thing that doesn’t fall into the category of “clean eating,” and blow it. And once I’m off the wagon, I just stay off and sulk around in the sugary snacky gravel until I get the mental fortitude to re-commit. That stinks.

A better bet — and what I’ve always told my training clients — is to realize that you didn’t put on flab and fat overnight and that it isn’t going to come off faster than it went on. (Well, maybe a little faster if you gained over years and years…) Generally speaking, the way people lose weight and keep it off is to realize that all or nothing will not work. (Usually because we end up right back at nothing pretty darned fast.) Instead, you have to make a mental shift in the way you think about fitness and food. You have to decide that you are going to build a healthier life for yourself, and that takes baby steps.

How do you do that? Here are a few ideas:

1. Add in exercise. If you already do a bit, do some more. Make a change that involves adding just a little. If you already walk three days a week, add a day. If you go for 10 minutes every day, try 20. Make a very small change, but a change for the better.

2. Vow to read labels and focus on foods that offer some nutritional benefit. When choosing between something snacky and tasty that offers no fiber, protein or healthy fat and something that does offer one of these items, go with the latter. Take it choice by choice and try to make good choices.

3. Don’t tell yourself that there is something you can’t have. If there is ice cream in my house, I will eat it. Plain and simple. But I haven’t banned ice cream. Instead, if I really want it, I can have it, but I have to go get it. And that extra effort might give me more time to make a better choice. And if not? Then I can have some ice cream! Not banning it makes me think about it less and enjoy it more when I get it.

4. Think about the way you feel over the way you look. Sure, we all want to fit into THOSE jeans (we all have a pair — the ones that you wore at some critical happy point in your life, the ones that represent the time you looked your best, felt your best.) But what is really important? Being able to enjoy your life. Feeling healthy and energetic. For me, it’s about being a person that my boys will be proud of. Being a mom that can run around with them and roll on the ground and KEEP UP with them. I wouldn’t mind it if some day I achieved the “hot mom” status, too, but that isn’t what this is about. At all.

So, get your head in the game! And if you’re with me on this little journey, feel free to tell me how it’s going!

Moving Matters

As you can imagine, The Major and I are discussing many important issues right now, as we prepare for an upcoming move and the potential sale of our house. Military moves are a special breed, and I’ll offer more insight on that at another time (gathering tidbits as we head through this one…) I thought I’d give you a glimpse into one of the critical pre-move email conversations we had this morning:

Me:  Hey:  The moving company is coming tomorrow to do a walk through survey so they’ll know what kind of boxes to bring, how much stuff we have, etc. Can you walk me through tonight to make sure that I will tell them correctly which stuff they are responsible for versus what we’re doing?

The Major:  Yeppers.  We need to identify the pro gear as well (yours and mine) and make sure they are aware of the requirement to ID each of ours respectively.  Plus we will need more cookies to make this happen, so that is your job. FK and stinky giraffes are marinating as we speak. (FK is Turbo’s nasty lovie blanket, and the stinky giraffes are a small gang of animals that live in Lunchbox’s crib. This morning I noticed that they are particularly rancid and requested that the Major quarantine them all in the hot wash after I took the guys to school.)

Me:  Excellent. Cookies will not be forthcoming. That is not on my agenda today, sorry.

The Major:  Fix it.


As you can see, The Major is singlehandedly trying to ensure that I am unsuccessful in any efforts at not eating crap.

Not Winning

“No tiger blood in YOUR veins.”

I wrote recently about my renewed vigor in the fight against fat. Since then, I have demonstrated my dedication to this fight by baking excessively (must get rid of all the flour, sugar and chocolate chips that we can’t move, right??) and by trying to prove to Ben and Jerry’s that I am, indeed, their most loyal customer. The Major has not helped in my efforts (at least not the efforts to LOSE weight, but he’s a big help in my efforts to weigh more than I have since I was pregnant. Thanks, man.) Twice a day, like clockwork, he works his way around the kitchen, opening every drawer and cabinet, and then comes to me and asks, “Where are the treats?” He does it as soon as he gets home from work, and again after the kids go to bed. And when I’m fighting a fight — a friggin’ WAR — over here, I do NOT need to be reminded about TREATS all the time! Nor do I need to feel like it is my job to be in charge of these treats or to create them for YOU, thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, the point was to tell on myself, I guess. I haven’t been doing the things I need to do if I actually don’t want to be flabby mom at my upcoming high school reunion. And it isn’t like I really care SO much what the people I knew in high school think of me (maybe lying just a teensy bit here…) but having an event to work towards has helped with these types of efforts in the past.
SO. It begins anew. TODAY. I have my gym bag with me at work. And since Turbo hates it when I pick him up early, I will go to the actual gym before I pick up the kids. (I used to work out in our garage, which was better equipped than many base gyms, but it’s been packed into a PODS container.) And I will NOT. EAT. CRAP. AAAGH!
Why is this so hard? I’m a friggin’ personal trainer, for crap’s sake! (Okay, not practicing, but certified!!) It isn’t like I am clueless about how people gain and lose fat!! (In case you ARE clueless, I can give you the basics. As The Major says, “It’s Physics, Homes.” Calories in, calories out. If the IN is bigger than the OUT, then you get bigger. If the IN is littler than the OUT, you get smaller. [Though there are still people who will say, “Oh, no, that doesn’t work for ME.” I will put my trainer hat on for one second to tell you, sure as shoeshine, that is absolute crap. YOU do not have a special metabolism designed by an alien race to DEFY THE LAWS OF PHYSICS. If you did, you would be the subject of many scientific studies. But you don’t. And neither do I.])
So we start again today. Coming with me?

Fighting the good fight

Like lots of moms in their thirties (I thought about adding a modifier there, but “late” just makes me sound almost dead, so we’ll leave it alone), I am fighting the battle of the ever-expanding waistline.  I shouldn’t make it sound like this is something I’m focused on only as a result of being a mom (though 2 pregnancies definitely added to the struggles). I’ve been focused on the physical — probably far more than is healthy — since I was a kid. I was a ballet dancer all through school, missing lots of school stuff for rehearsals and performances, and taking classes every day after school into the late evenings.  Which meant that I spent a lot of time in a leotard and tights, comparing my body to the bodies of others. And if the scrutiny had been only my own, I might be somewhat healthier, but I had a ballet teacher who taught with a long black cane, and asked questions like, “been in the cookie jar again, have we?” I’d get home and my dad would refer to me as “chubs” whenever he found me eating (I actually think he may have some fairly unhealthy attitudes about food, but that’s another story).  Anyway, add it all together and I had no clear picture of what I looked like. Now that I look back at photos from those years, I can see that I was perfectly healthy and pretty thin.  College brought ups and downs with weight — I quit dancing and struggled with having no physical outlet and gained and lost 10 or 15 pounds.  By my senior year, I’d found the gym and replaced ballet with step aerobics and treadmills.  The photos from college vary, in some I’m thin, in some I’m chubby.

As an adult, I knew that I needed to work out as a sanity insurance policy, and that has helped keep things steady for the most part. I actually became a personal trainer for a while and keep my certification current though I don’t train clients at this point (because of my “real” job, which annoyingly seems to take up quite a lot of time.) So I know how I should be eating and how to get myself in shape when things have slipped. And sometimes now I think that maybe my distorted vision has gone the other way. I’ve looked in the mirror recently and thought, “not bad,” when the swimsuit shopping experience, complete with double “check-out-your-own-ass” mirror says otherwise.

As a result of the swimsuit shopping experience, I’ve had a bit of a talk with myself, and seeing as how I’m still here after the rapture occurred and all, I think I’ve got till around October to get myself into a bit firmer shape. (Isn’t October when the rest of us, those who didn’t get “saved” yesterday are supposed to be taken to hell? Well, it’s hot in hell and I’m sure I’ll want to wear shorts, so I’d like to look good in them…)

And this long drawn out stream of consciousness boredom you are experiencing is nothing more than my way of mentioning that I’m trying to work out more often and eat better. So you may be hearing about that at times. Apologies in advance. And the eating part will have to start tomorrow, since we just arrived home from a sushi and Baskin Robbins feast. Tomorrow, look out!